Ever since high school I was aware of the dangers of opiate addiction and their potential for abuse. When I received my first Rx for Vicodin around 16 I remember the doctor saying things like “don’t drive after you take it” and “this will make you sleepy and maybe even dizzy”.
As with most people who become addicted to opiates, they had the complete opposite effect on me. I felt energized, focused, motivated – basically like Superman!
With a few small prescriptions for minor injuries and broken bones over the course of my late teens to my late 20’s, it was always the same thing; I got super PUMPED when a doc would give me 10, 20, 30 Percocet or Vicodin (nothing crazy), blow through them and that was that.
I never went searching for more, never felt addicted, just LOVED when I would get hurt because I knew the next 5-10 days were gonna rock!
I went away to a very prestigious college, got my Business Degree in Marketing with a GPA of 3.6 and secured a great job after graduating, which I am still at in top position. I accomplished all of this never abusing opiates or even trying any drugs other than marijuana over the years.
At the age of 28 I started dating and fell completely in love with my soul mate who was currently in remission for brain cancer. Things looked good for her and everything in my life was spot on; I couldn’t have been happier. She and I had an HHI over $500k at a very young age, great jobs, were traveling the world together and after just 8 months I proposed (clearly, she said yes).
Just two months after I proposed our world was turned upside-down when an MRI showed tumor recurrence.
I vowed to stay by her side and be her rock no matter what, and I can honestly say I kept that promise; though not proud of how I eventually started maintaining the level of attention and care she needed and deserved.….
Table of Contents
Constant Supply of Pills
Shortly after my fiancé underwent her second brain surgery I suffered a torn rotator cuff. Because of my personal situation, planning a wedding while my wife was very weak on chemo and in need of my help, I opted to not have surgery.
It was at this point where my doctor started me on 60 Norco 7.5/325 per month.
That 60 very quickly became 90, then up to 120 per month after just a while – And eventually I was finishing those 120 in about 2 weeks, not 4. I would go through minor withdrawal when I would run out but it only lasted a couple days, so I never made much of it – a sick day from work here and there, went into hibernation for 48 hours and that was about the extent of it; honestly I didn’t even realize it was withdrawal at the time because I was so naïve to the addiction.
This pattern continued all the way through my wedding day in 2015 and up until we bought our home together in 2016.
Exactly 1 year after my wife’s second surgery, an MRI revealed regrowth again, and progression with no cure. My world had been shattered.
Here I am, 30 years old and married to the love of my life, making great money, living in a beautiful house and with our 2 dogs…..And now I am being told my 33 year old wife is expected to die within a year and they can’t do anything about it. Without getting into the details of her battle, I can tell you that it was at this point where I went off the deep end.
I had a friend who I had written off years back because of his addiction to opiates and his unwillingness to get help.
Ironically, I ended up contacting his dealer as soon as I ran out of Norco this time and I bought Ten 30mg Oxycodone.
Almost immediately I started snorting them…..And 2 days after buying those 10, I went back and bought 25…..Then a few days later 25 more….After a couple months of buying between 10-30 at a time I upped my addiction and starting buying 75-100 30mg Oxy’s at a time (that’s $2,250-$3,000 per pickup) and I would do that at least 5x a month for a while.
My Enormous Opiate Habit
So easily a $15k per month addiction – but no big deal, right? I had the money, it was keeping me on point to be able to feel like Superman all day every day and take care of my wife who I was far more concerned about than myself……Well, when the Oxy’s weren’t doing much unless I took 150mg at a time, so I was introduced to Oxymorphone 40mg pills.
More powerful, more expensive, more dangerous. At this point I was not able to function whatsoever unless I had at least 10-15 30mg Oxy’s or 5-6 40mg Oxymorphone’s in my possession, so my routine became – wake up, pick up, work from home while taking care of my wife and dogs.
6 months after the 3rd surgery it was time for a 4th, after which we were told they weren’t able to remove all of the tumor and it had spread to the brain stem….so I was expected to sit here at 31 years old and just let her die?
Well I kicked it up and was now at the peak of my addiction.
I was snorting upwards of 500mg of Oxy per day and not even feeling high but had to do it just to feel “normal”.
I started researching alternative treatments, holistic healing, new doctors and more. I was an absolute MACHINE of a caregiver, so I was able to overlook my addiction because I knew I was going so far above and beyond to try and save my wife’s life.
Losing My Family
I knew I had a problem at this point but felt like it just wasn’t worth stopping because I had other priorities. I sat bedside for months, watching my wife’s health decline as lost mobility, the ability to speak, bath, go to the bathroom, eat and drink.
She passed in May ’17, leaving myself (31 at that point) and our 9-year-old and 13 year old dogs alone in the house we had bought just a year prior.
The next few months were a complete blur as I was thrown into the fire having to write my wife’s obituary, coordinate her funeral, deliver the eulogy at her funeral, bury her and close out her entire estate dealing with attorneys, the state and the IRS…..This certainly wasn’t when I was going to stop using, right??
3 months after her passing, our 9 year old dog died on my 32nd birthday.
This sent me into a serious spiral and I got into a vicious car crash a month later, breaking my nose and almost totaling my car.
I continued this extreme level of daily opiate intake for months after my wife passed before finally getting into financial distress, spending all my money on opiates, medical bills and funeral expenses.
Finally I had the “Holy shi* moment”, searched the internet for help, but I wanted discrete help.
Searching for Help
There wasn’t a single person other than my dealer who knew what I was doing – nobody. I was very sneaky, as most addicts are, and I was good at it. I had had enough of the lies, pretending I was doing OK when I was NOT, missing events with friends…..the list goes on and on not to mention how it was affecting my work efficacy.
Keep in mind, I was still getting my 120 Norco every single month through all of this. So the first step I took was telling my doctor I wanted to come off the painkillers, thinking I could taper off them and off the Oxy together.
I also had massive prescriptions for Lexapro, Xanax and Klonopin simultaneously. Well, I tapered off the Norco, but increased my Oxy intake, and now I wasn’t getting any Norco to supplement my addiction.
So, what did I do?
First, I found Matt, had a couple of calls, filled him in on my situation and we began formulating a realistic gameplan given my extreme situation and level of addiction, setting specific deadlines and goals.
The ultimate plan was I was going to taper down using Oxymorphone since I didn’t need as much per day to function.
Once I got to a low dose I planned on telling my parents I was coming off the Norco from my doctor and that I am going to go through some withdrawal and need to stay with them for a while (good cover, right? Save face and get my parents help).
I took my last Oxymorphone on Xmas eve 2017 and never looked back, despite months of extreme physical and mental pain I would soon endure. I had a handful of Methadone I planned on using for 5 days to ease into it, and that helped.
My Detox Plan
The plan was to stay with my parents for a month from Xmas eve through Jan ’19. I had also taken 2 weeks off of work so I wouldn’t have to worry about that during peek withdrawals.
Come Jan 1, 2018 I was in full blown withdrawal, unable to work, unable to eat, unable to get out of bed or do anything besides sleep.
I was able to ease some of the worst symptoms with my Xanax and Clonidine prescriptions, but I was in a world of hell. I had gone from 190lbs to 241lbs in a matter of 6 months.
People didn’t recognize me, but nobody said anything.
I didn’t even see it in the mirror.
It wasn’t until my father made me weigh myself that I knew I had major issues.
On Jan, 5 2018 my second dog died in my arms while I was going through full blown withdrawal. It was the most painful stab to the gut as I was making all the right moves to get clean now I’m hit with this!?
I stopped eating and drinking completely for 2 weeks and after 2 stints in the ER from dehydration, kidney failure and a fatty liver I really got a kick into high gear and opened my eyes.
It was serious now – I was sick and my entire family had been ripped away from me in a matter of 9 months.
I started thinking about my old self, the MAN my wife fell in love with – I loved that guy too, and I was not him and I started getting so disgusted with myself it actually motivated me to push forward.
I started thinking about all the things I don’t / can’t do because of what I put my body through.
So, I got to work….
For a period of 3-4 weeks my acute withdrawal symptoms were so bad I was spending the entire day either in bed, shaking as if I were having seizures, or I was in the bathroom dry heaving because there was no food in me.
It was the worst experience of my life and at times I actually felt like I could die, but constantly reminded myself this is withdrawal and I am detoxing my body!
Stick it out!
After about 6 weeks clean it became 100% organic meats/proteins, fresh fruit and vegetables, Vitamins, hydrating constantly all at Matt’s instruction.
I started working out daily, starting slow with short walks, which turned to short jogs then into longer runs. I then started lifting weights again and keeping up this routine every single day.
At this point I was starting to feel better physically, suffering only from some PAWS related depression and some PTSD still.
Overcoming Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
The PAWS was a real pain in the ass because I was physically feeling better, but I could not shut my mind off. Depression was terrible and I still didn’t want to see anyone or do anything other than get my body right.
I kept taking Lexapro for depression and Xanax for anxiety which helped me a lot.
The key was keeping busy with work and exercise though!
I also adopted a new puppy who I say every single day still “saved me” because it forced me into a routine and made me get up every day. He’s now 75lbs and we run 3 miles a day together every morning.
I was seeing my doctor once a month because of my life situation, the meds I was on and the rapid weight gain.
Well, the first time seeing him after I got into this new, clean living routine I had dropped from 241 to 225 in a month. The next month I was 211.
Then I was 202, 195, 192 and finally 185. I sit here today typing this at a lean 193lbs, 33 years old in the best shape of my life, playing sports again with an absolute hatred for opiates deep down in my soul.
Developing a hatred for the drugs and taking a good hard look at what it was doing to me in every aspect of my life was key.
I remind myself every day how strong I am, how far I have come and how much more there is in life for me to achieve now that my life isn’t focused around making sure I have thousands of dollars of pills on me each day.
I have the utmost respect for Matt Finch and the work he does every day and the work that he did with me.
The late-night texts I would send, and he was always there to talk with an unbiased opinion.
Maybe you have a friend in your life that can be that ear for you, but for me I needed someone I didn’t know who had my best interests and goals in mind and had also been through a similar battle and came out on top!
I pray for every person going through any sort of similar addiction and know personally, along with Matt Finch that if you just dig down deep, remember who you are and what your life was like before opiates you are all capable of putting yourselves through some temporary pain to regain our power.